Sunday, July 20, 2014

Hue with Vietnam Airlines and La Résidence Hotel

We had a really long layover, about 4 hours, in Saigon. We had to walk from the international terminal to the domestic via an outdoor walkway. It was sort of a cruel welcome to the heat and humidity of Vietnam. The domestic terminal in Saigon is very sad. It is completely utilitarian and lacks any kind of style or decor. It's just a giant room with airline counters and it's not well air-conditioned. We had standby upgrades waiting for us, but we had to check-in at the economy desk, which was a bit of a downer. The domestic business class lounge for Vietnam Airlines is really sad. It smells like smoke and has big bulky ugly furniture. At least it was a place to relax and have internet before our flight to Hue. They only call the flights for the large cities of Hanoi and Danang and they never called our flight. When it was time to board the flight we were taken out to our plane by a bus. Our plane was probably at the farthest possible stand. We had to walk up to the plane and I took these shots. The Vietnam Airlines blue is really pretty and they only seem to fly A321s out of the A320 family although at one time they flew A319s and A320s.

Since we were in business class we boarded at the front of the plane. Come to find out there were only two other people in business class on this flight. Only 4 of the 16 seats were occupied and they assigned us all to row 3. 

The flight from Saigon to Hue is just over an hour long and maybe around 1.5 hours but no more. It's really a pretty view all the way up the coast.

They served a little cold plate snack on the short flight up the coast. I also ordered a beer because I remember having Vietnamese beer before and actually liked it.

When we landed in Hue we were the only plane at the airport. The plane parked about no more than 200 feet from the terminal building yet we deplaned and boarded a bus to the terminal, which was absolutely ridiculous. What also added to the ridiculousness was that the 4 of us in business class had our own bus to ourselves. In a sense it was nice, but by the time the bags made it to the terminal all the other passengers were there crowding the baggage claim area.

This picture was shot just inside the terminal building and it is clear just how close and how unnecessary it was to be bused to the terminal. 

We had our hotel, La Residence Hue, arrange our airport transfer and when we exited the arrivals area our driver was waiting for us. The hotel is less than 30 minutes from the hotel and it was early evening when we arrived. The front desk agent invited to sit in the lobby to complete the check-in. We were given cold towels and a welcome drink. Because I'm a Platinum member with Accor, I also received a gift in the form of a stationary set. La Résidence is an M Gallery hotel and part of Accor. This hotel is the old governor's mansion from colonial times and it is really charming. There are three main buildings and our room was in a separate building from the lobby and restaurants. We were given a deluxe river view room on the top floor with a large balcony. The view from there was amazing. In the picture below the ancient citadel can be seen across the river with the large flag pole.

The next day we took a day tour of Hue and we had a tour guide and driver the whole day. We first went to three different emperor's tombs. There are way more than three but we only had time for those. Each had its own character and the first one was the tomb of Tu Duc. It is the most dilapidated of the trio we saw and was built in the 1860s.

The second tomb we saw was that of Minh Mang. It was built early than the previous one we saw in the 1840s. This one is in better condition and is really pretty.

The third tomb we saw was that of the last emperor, Khai Dinh. It is really nice and was the most crowded of the ones we saw. It was built in the 1930s.

After that tomb we drove to the citadel where we had lunch inside the walls of the ancient city at a really nice restaurant with upscale Vietnamese food. After lunch we toured the citadel area and the forbidden city within the walls.

After the citadel, we drove up the river to the Thien Mu pagoda where there is also a monastery behind it. The view of the river from the pagoda is very beautiful. All of the parts of the city we saw were pretty and serene.

Once we finished walking around the pagoda we boarded a river dragon boat. It was a perfect was to end the day enjoying the cool air of the river on a boat all to ourselves. We saw children playing in the water along with some water buffalo.

The river boat let us off just a block from our hotel and we walked back and bid farewell to our guide who gave us an amazing day around the ancient city of Hue. If you ever get a chance to go to Vietnam, Hue is not to be missed.

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